Saturday, 11 May 2013

Love Solar. Hate Smart Meters.

In January 2012 I posted a piece about my brother in-law having a "smart meter" installed.Link to previous post.
At the time I was surprised he'd been chosen, and wary of the £11.7bn cost to consumers for something we didn't ask for, or appear to need. 
The government and energy companies were planning to fit these devices in every home within the next 5 years. It now looks as if another "U turn" is on it's way from a government which never seems to have a planned and strategic policy for energy in the UK. Link to Guardian newspaper report.

There seems to be very little information on the TV news or in the papers regarding this major change to how our energy use will be monitored. I naively assumed that this was a minor story of very little consequence to the "average household" consumer. 
I first spotted a more sinister aspect to this story via Paul Lewis's Twitter feed. Paul regularly appears on TV and Radio 4's 'Money Box' discussing a huge range of financial stories. 

  1. The £11.7bn smart meter programme will introduce 'time of use' tariffs which could price low income families out of cooking at meal times.

    Reply to  
               I was intrigued
    Image will appear as a link
    1. : Are you sure about "time of use" tariff? Or is it just speculation? I can't find anything on Google.
    2. . >> 'Could' is not speculative. It could be used that way. Whether it will or not depends on choices by suppliers after 2020.
  2. Smart meters - which will cost estimated £11.7bn - will enable suppliers to manage load by charging us more at peak times.
  3. Smart elec/gas meters rollout delayed more than a year to late 2015 the £11.7bn cost will be added to our bills.

I always assumed smart meters were a way for energy companies to reduce their labour and direct costs by using technology to read your meter wirelessly.
Alternatively, it was all about allowing the consumer to monitor their consumption to reduce the bill each quarter.
What I hadn't considered was the ability of the meter to record (and transmit) our daily energy routine. They return key information on energy usage to the electricity suppliers. This factor, which will help suppliers save money, means energy companies are keen on the meters.

Can you imagine the implications of your energy supplier being able to charge you NOT on a standard tariff rate, but one specifically related to YOUR energy usage? It might be that you use your washing machine, dishwasher and cook your main daily meal at lunchtime. After monitoring your usage they may decide to increase your tariff between 11:00am and 14:00pm whilst reducing it in the late afternoon/evening.
It sounds science fiction, but energy companies have demonstrated in the past a determination to increase profits over their social responsibilities.

The plan is to roll out energy meters for every UK household by 2020. 

The good news is that you are under no obligation to have one fitted. Link to official government website. 
I don't intend to allow my energy supplier to fit one at my house and I would advice everyone to question the motives of the company and what benefits it would provide YOU the consumer, before you allow them to fit one for at your house.

How about You?

Twitter: (@solaricarus)


  1. Fascinating story if true.

    I see that Ottawa has introduced shoulder and peak supply times/charges after smart meters were installed. So it's possible.

    But 'individual household' tailoring? Alarming. Would any government permit such obvious exploitation?

    Solar panel generators like you and I would be alarmed as we use most of our electric appliances at times when the day is brightest and pulling less from the grid. If billing was adjusted to charge MORE at such times that would be crazy.

    1. Hi Chris.
      As always you make valid points.

      Time based services are used all the time in other sectors.
      1: Tourism. Your holiday costs depend on when you're travelling. Bank holidays and school breaks are the most expensive times.
      2: Transport. Carriers encourage you to travel "off peak" with higher fares for the most convenient times.
      3: Entertainment. Tickets cost more for an evening performance.

      Utility companies as you point out, already charge consumers higher prices for energy at peak times. "Economy 7" is an obvious example where electricity is cheapest at night. The energy company in Canada has moved even further using the data from smart meters to impose 3 daily tariffs. With Time-of-Use rates, the price of electricity varies depending on when it is used. Use this link to see details.

      I accept that it's a leap to see "individual" tariffs imposed, but who trusts energy companies to ignore an obvious money source? The UK government has already reneged on its "mandated" CO2 commitment and is intending to offer a gilt edged contract to the builders of the first nuclear plant in the UK in a generation.

      If you haven't got a smart meter fitted then you're safe if the worst happens!